Ravell Call, Deseret News
When the Ogden Utah Temple was dedicated in 1972, it was only the 14th operating temple in the Church and the fifth in Utah, the first in the Beehive State to be constructed in the 20th century. That temple has now been reconstructed from the ground up and is open for public tours preparatory to its rededication in three sessions on Sunday, Sept. 21.
A lot of progress has been made in temple building and Church growth in general in the intervening 42 years. With the reconstruction in Ogden, the Church today has 143 operating temples.
“Now there are 14 functioning temples in the state of Utah, with three additional ones announced,” said Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy, as he greeted news media representatives at a briefing July 29 prior to a temple tour.
In 1972, there were 25 stakes in the temple district, said Elder Richards, recently appointed as executive director of the Temple Department. “Now there are 73 stakes, and that represents about 250,000 members of the Church who will look to this temple as their temple.”
Acknowledging that open houses most often occur with new temples, he said, “In many respects, this is a new temple.”
“It’s the same footprint, and many of the structural walls are the same — strengthened for seismic requirements — but all of the exterior and interior walls are redecorated and, as you will see, very beautifully done.”
Indeed, the new temple is strikingly different in appearance from the former design. There was one entrance before; now there are two, one on the west, and one on the east fronting the city’s main thoroughfare of Washington Boulevard.
The cornerstone from the former structure remains with the newly constructed edifice; hence, when it is rededicated, there will be no cornerstone ceremony, noted Elder Craig G. Fisher, an Area Seventy and chairman of the temple open house and rededication committee.
“It is a lovely place,” said Elder Fisher, who lives in the neighboring city of Morgan. “It means a lot to the people of this community. We have 73 stakes that feed into the Ogden Temple District. They come from as far away as Riverton, Wyoming. The stakes in the greater Ogden area extend as far south as Layton.”
Open-house volunteers include 25,000 ushers, Elder Fisher said. The open house will continue through Saturday, Sept. 6, excluding Sundays.
Elder Fisher noted that 450,000 reservations had already been made. “From time to time, additional numbers will be opened up on our reservation line, so we think that most of the people who wish to come and see the temple will have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Surprisingly, he added, there is adequate parking near the temple for open house visitors, including an underground parking garage below the temple parking lot. The temple is just four blocks away from the Ogden station for Frontrunner, the Utah Transit Authority commuter rail, and Ogden City is providing shuttle service to the temple site, Elder Fisher said.
Elder Richards spoke of the rich Church history and heritage in Ogden.
“There were people living here when the pioneers arrived in 1847,” he said. “The Church established a community here early on as they did in many other local communities around the West. And it became a very interesting focal point in the history of the West because of the transcontinental railroad that was completed in 1869 just 53 miles from here in Promontory. It just so happens that my second-great-grandfather, Franklin D. Richards, was appointed to live here in Ogden by Brigham Young as the presiding apostle, and one of the first things he did was be a part of the official four-member party from Ogden city to go to Promontory and participate in the driving of the Golden Spike. I can just imagine how he feels, looking down, as it were, upon this beautiful structure, as he was so engaged, living just a few blocks from here during those 30 years from 1869 to 1899.”
Drawing a comparison to Solomon’s Temple, Elder Richards said the finest materials that could be obtained were brought from around the world in the temple’s reconstruction.
“The wood is from Africa, a mahogany variety. The marble was quarried in Egypt and fabricated in China very precisely, piece by piece, with laser cutting where necessary, and then put together very beautifully and harmoniously by the wonderful contractors and workers here in Ogden.”
Some of the paintings and murals were retained from the former temple construction, including a large mural painted by Robert Shepherd and located in the center of the temple on the main floor.
New artwork also is featured. “So there’s a connection to the past as we go forward to the future,” said Elder Richards. Examples of new art are in the baptistry, where a painting by Keith Bond of Fort Collins, Colorado, depicts Christ and John the Baptist standing in a river at the time of the baptism of the Lord. On either side of the room is a painting of a river flowing in canyon landscape. Conducting the visitors on a tour of the temple, Elder Fisher said the paintings suggest his beloved Ogden Valley. His wife, Sister Julia Fisher, pointed out that the placement of the paintings on either side of the font suggests that the river flows into and out of the font.
Throughout the temple — in art glass and floor coverings — is a consistent motif of desert roses and prairie grass. Asked why the desert rose is featured, Sister Fisher suggested that the flower grows wild in the desert and can be viewed as symbolic of the prophecy in Isaiah about the desert blossoming as the rose, imagery that inspired the Mormon pioneers who settled Utah and areas of the Mountain West.
At 112,232 square feet, the temple’s floor space is nearly the same as the previous edifice, Elder Fisher said.
Integral to the temple project was the accompanying reconstruction of the Ogden Tabernacle, with a new pipe organ that was constructed by the same builder who created the instrument in the Church’s Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
“So we like to call this our Ogden ‘Temple Square,’ ” said Elder Fisher, referring to the block on which the temple and tabernacle stand.
In fact, the temple reconstruction was an integral element of the revitalization of downtown Ogden, said Matthew Godfrey, a former three-term mayor of the city beginning in 1999 and now a member of the temple open house and dedication committee. “I would hope it would also give a spiritual rebirth to the town,” said Brother Godfrey, a member of the Ogden Utah East Stake high council, “but certainly one of the things we were hoping for was an increase in weddings and other patronage at the temple and even the temple block.”
He said the project went beyond his wildest expectations.
“This has been a place for ecumenical gatherings, but it’s always been hard to get people from other faiths onto this block, and my sense is this new construction is going to break that down.”
The reconstructed edifice presents a dramatic appearance, as one drives into town from the Interstate freeway to the west, in a way that Brother Godfrey does not recall seeing with the prior building.
“Now you can drive by without barriers blocking a full view of the temple,” he said. “People are excited to see what has transpired here and feel an increased connection to the Ogden temple that they didn’t feel before.”
Free reservations for the open house can be made through the www.templeopenhouse.lds.org website (maximum of 25 reservations) or by calling 1-855-537-2000. Group reservations may also be made by calling that number.